Polls on hose, and thoughts on other interview accessories

What Kind of Hose Should You Wear to an #Interview? | CorporetteToday’s reader mail comes with a ton more of questions about interviewing…

I’m a 3L and have an interview next week with a panel of district court judges for a judicial clerkship. I have a few questions with regards to my upcoming interview:

1.) I (and the interview) are in the Midwest, so it’s cold and snowy outside. I am planning on wearing a black skirt suit and am wondering if it’s appropriate to wear black tights with my suit? Or would pantyhose (off-black) be more professional?

2.) What do I do about a coat? Is it ok to wear a wool coat over my suit? I’m not sure if there will be anywhere to hang it or leave it once I get to the courthouse. Or should I just leave it in the car and just suck it up during the walk to the courthouse from my car?

3.) What about a purse? All I’m planning on bringing with me are copies of my resume, writing sample, etc. so I don’t necessarily need a large bag, but I don’t know if it’s unprofessional to bring my purse and carry the paperwork in a leather portfolio.

Good luck on the interview!  We’ll go through all of your questions…

First, on tights — this keeps coming up, and so we’re going to run some polls today.  Our default answer, previously, was that off-black pantyhose should be worn with a dark skirt suit.  However, readers in the past have disagreed with us, saying nude/sheer is more appropriate (check out their suggestions for the best brands in the comments here). We’ve also heard of folks who hate tights with a suit (which we also disagree with — tights, to us, are fine for any day when you’re NOT interviewing or something similar).   So, without further ado:

best pantyhose for dark suit

In terms of the wool coat — it always pains us to see women wearing ski jackets or other short jackets over a suit. Maybe we’re old school, but a nice wool or cashmere overcoat — long enough to cover your thighs — will never go out of fashion. And of course you can wear it on top of your suit. For your interview, we would absolutely recommend wearing a coat — your common sense and judgment is a valid subject on the table, and if it’s cold out, common sense dictates you should wear a coat. You’re probably going to have to take the coat off to get through security, though, so we would just carry it, folded neatly, from that point forward. (Furthermore, there’s no real excuse for not having a proper wool coat right now, as tons of places have them on deep discount. (2013 Update: Check out our Hunt for Wool Coats.)

Finally, as for the purse/portfolio issue — we’ve seen women do it both ways, and have never thought less of someone we interviewed because she carried a portfolio. (That’s what most of the guys do, isn’t it?) Personally we’re fans of carrying a nylon or leather tote bag, though, to hold both the portfolio or folder as well as the contents of our purse. We would suggest, however, that whatever you carry should be as professional and grown-up as possible — so leave the backpack with reflectors on it at home. (2013 Update: Check out these interview bags.)

Readers, what say you?

Comments

  1. A purse at an interview seems odd to me. I vote for a professional tote + portfolio.

    • Ditto. I’ll add that professional tote is optional (if I were in this 3L’s shoes, I’d go w/o a purse or tote and just stash my car keys, ID and cell phone in my coat pocket).

    • I do recruiting for my firm and I cringe when we do OCI (or even office interviews) and girls walk in carrying their louis vuitton handbags. I never quite understand why they bring them to interviews – they are small (so nothing you need for an interview fits inside), they are clumsy (it’s not like they fit over your shoulder like a tote so they are always in the way when you’re doing the “hello” and “goodbye” handshakes), they are a little “look at me”, and worst of all, to me, they don’t send the most professional message. I realize that in some cases, the interviewee might bring such a bag as a security blanket and who am I to tell someone not to bring/wear something that she likes, but I’ve just got to be honest and say that, as someone scouting out the potential new attorneys at my office, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

      • Anyone carrying an LV handbag, I don’t care where, leaves a bad taste in my mouth, lol!

        • divaliscious11 :

          Anyone who is judge-y leaves a bad taste in many mouths and often simply comes off as envious. Assuming you are talking about a Classic Monogram bag, and not a runway or show bag, there are many people who consider that a neutral, and if its an Epi, most won’t know its by Louis Vuitton, and if they do and have a problem, you’d be hard pressed to convince me its not jealousy. Similarly damier bags are also fairly subtle. Now if you want to talk style of bag, that is different…

          • A logo monogram print as a neutral to an interview??? No way. I too do interviewing for my firm, and I do not at all think showing up with a bag plastered with a brand’s initials at all sends the right tone. You want people paying attention to you and your credentials, not your pocketbook. To the extent that your bag speaks, it should say “quietly professional and elegant” not “buy vuitton!!!” or “guess how much I cost!!”. Flash is not what should be aimed for. Why you would assume that to be jealousy is beyond me: I could well afford a Vuitton if I wanted one.

          • Agree that if LV= epi and someone judges me by that, it’s jealousy. But logos (LV, Coach, whatever) are a no-no for me at any time, and especially during interviews.

          • I happen to think the Classic Monogram bag is dog-ugly and wouldn’t carry one if it was given to me free of charge. I’m not jealous or envious, and I can easily afford one. I simply prefer not to carry something that is such an unattractive shade of brown. It’s so hideous one would be hard pressed to convince me that people carry it for any other reason than to make it clear they are carrying an expensive Louis Vuitton bag.

          • divaliscious11 :

            Actually I said a classic monogram as a neutral in general, and I don’t include Coach monogram in the same category as LV classic monogram. I guess I don’t look at people’s purses and make the assumptions you, and others apparently make. Is it neat (not having stuff falling out), is it discreet – meaning is it put away for the discussion, or sitting up on the table because there is no wear to put it etc…. But then again, I wouldn’t ding someone for wearing tights in a cold climate either. When I am hiring a lawyer, I’ve already reviewed your credentials on paper to determine that, unless you are a liar, you have the basic skills set to do the job, so who are you in relation to the job and the fit with our organization. I think a lot of these complaints are just excuses to ding someone. If I ding you, I am going to ding you, but it won’t be because they had a designer bag, or the wrong color hose. ….

          • divaliscious11 :

            anon @ 10:52 – You are perfectly entitled to not like something, and not spend you $ on it if you choose. However, just because you think something is “dog-ugly” doesn’t mean everyone else does, and it seems to me that dinging someone for having different ‘taste’ than you do, versus their ability to do the job, seems to say more about you than about the prospective candidate, and quite honestly, its not particularly flattering. We seem to be talking out of both sides our mouth in this discussion and perhaps on the board in general. As intelligent, educated woman in or aspiring to be in leadership roles in our chosen profession, we want to be evaluated for our skill and ability, but we complain about what really are minor issues. Yes, we can all say then men do it blah blah blah, but at what point do WE, and people in the positions with authority, say that isn’t that important, its not a determining factor etc… Are you really saying you’d ding a candidate with stellar credentials, stellar work experience because she carried a signature bag? If so, how exactly are you different than those men who never wanted to hire women to begin with???? We seem to have a lot of people on here who have an “it was done to me so I am going to do it to them” attitude, which really makes progress hard. Again, if you are AT the interview, you must have had something to ffer on paper, so I am going to check out who you are, not what you have on, unless you are grossly inappropriate.

        • I love my LV Classic monogram Alma bag. I never knew so many people were judging me when I wore it! I figure the shape (Alma) has been around since the 1930s, and the monogram since way before that, and that’s good enough for me. Then again, the only time I’m going to judge someone for their bag is when they’re carrying around a hideous fake (which you see a lot with LV unfortunately).

          • anon - chi :

            Agreed – *especially* when they are carrying an obvious fake to a LEGAL interview! Opinions on this differ among lawyers, I realize, but I think it is safe to say that many lawyers feel that fakes = intellectual property theft. It’s like walking into an interview with the words “I’m a thief and take advantage of other peoples’ hard work without paying for it” stamped on your forehead. Not good.

            Aside from that, fakes (bad ones, anyway) are so often made of pleather – I feel like I see at least a couple of them on the CTA every single day, and I never understand why people think that looks good!

  2. I had a district court interview in NYC the weekend of that huge snowstorm back in December, and I wore sheer pantyhose with a black suit. What helped in keeping my legs warm and not getting gross slush all over the backs on my walk was a pair of black legwarmers. Slip them off after you go through security and stick them in your bag and you’ll be set.

  3. Less is more – I vote portfolio only. It should have enough space in it for bare essentials (ID, pens, car key, stamped and addressed Thank You cards/envelopes. Why would you need your phone?) Otherwise, you walk into the interview room carrying your coat, a purse, and a portfolio – if you need to shake hands with people as soon as you walk in the door, this presents a problem.

    • “Why would you need your phone?” – for safety/security reasons. Same reason I carry it when I go for a run – you never know.

      • Maybe someone else already said this (haven’t read all the entries) but some courthouses don’t allow non-attorneys to bring cell phones in the building. I’m always terrified that there’s an unknown setting on my cell that I have yet to discover and my phone will unexpectedly ring/chime/explode during an interview. I leave it in the car.

        • …And some courthouses don’t let anyone, including attorneys, to bring cell phones at all. (e.g., SDNY). Regardless, you can go without a cell phone for an hour interview. If an emergency arises, presumably you can use the judge’s chambers phone.

          Also, I can’t imagine that a judge’s chambers wouldn’t have a coat rack/stand in the reception area, so wear the jacket.

    • divaliscious11 :

      Safety, perhaps one has children in childcare, so the recyuiting coordinator can contact you to reschedule if the interviewer has an emergency….

  4. A purse seems odd to me too – the purse is usually too unprofessional (baubles, bling and noisemakers). You seek to be a professional – buy a professional tote! If you are on a budget, Target carries a line of professional looking totes. Ensure that the portfolio and an umbrella fit. Ensure that it has pockets so that you can easily find a pen.

    As for the wool coat – you will look silly if you shiver in the cold in a suit jacket. I saw one this morning, and laughed inwardly. Buy a 3/4 length coat. Nothing says ‘teenager’ like a short coat over a skirt suit, and nothing says ‘secretary’ like a pea coat over a pant suit. Once again, for the budget, Target sells acceptable solutions (polyester). The color is not crucial, as long as you avoid turquoise and mustard.

    • Corporate Tool :

      Can you explain what you mean by “nothing says ‘secretary’ like a pea coat over a pant suit?”

      I’m not sure I understand why.

    • I was with you right up until avoiding turquoise and mustard (although I don’t see many secretaries in peacoats). So fuchsia is fine?

      Honestly, you’ll have your coat off before you’re in the interview room, and accessories that aren’t part of your outfit like a coat or bag are the best way to not be boring. Wear whatever color you like.

    • What about an understated, professional-looking purse? I’ve heard legends.

  5. I think for a law student in a public sector job (whatever it might be) a purse and portfolio (if it’s nice) is perfectly fine. But when it comes to tights with a suit, I guess I look at it and say if it’s cold enough to dress like a 6 year old in a skirt, just wear pants. But I’m from the southeast.

    • I’m with you, and I voted ‘other’ in the question about tights with a skirt suit.
      Wear pants if its cold. Wear a skirt suit with nude hose if its not. Everything else is not formal enough for an interview.

  6. For a panel of judges in the midwest (hmm, is this that 7th circuit staff clerk in chicago thing? had a friend who did that) you should wear pantyhose that match your skin color. NOT tights.

  7. I vote against tights because of the audience – judges are older; they will likely consider tights unprofessional. But in no way would they find nude hose unprofessional. Thus err on the side of caution. I love the legwarmer idea!

  8. One thing to keep in mind (from a former midwest-er) is that in cold climates people are often distracted if it appears your legs aren’t covered in the winter (eg nude hose). Then they’re thinking about your legs, which no one wants at an interview. I recommend covering with black/off black hose and then you won’t get noticed for wearing tights, if that’s something the interviewer would notice, and you won’t get noticed for having apparently bare legs. I think it’s the safest option. Also another vote for the “no purse” suggestion.

    • I’m also from the upper Midwest and could not agree more. Nude hose really only look appropriate in less-than-frigid weather. Dark colored hose that match the skirt/shoes not only creates a cleaner line but also doesn’t distract.

    • I’m in the upper Midwest as well and completely agree about the no tights/dark hose advice in cold weather. Also, I agree about wearing a nice coat, it’s winter, no one will judge you for bringing a coat with you and the last thing you want is to have melted snowflakes all over your suit if you have to walk in inclement weather.

    • Absolutely right. It’s been freezing up here lately and looking like you’ve been walking around with exposed skin (even if you are just wearing nude hose) will definitely get you the wrong kind of attention. Wear pants or dark hose.

    • This is brilliant! I lived in the upper midwest for 13 years and absorbed the no-nude-hose-in-winter thing by osmosis, but never understood why I didn’t like nude hose. And now, having moved out away, I’ve started wearing nude hose again. It all makes sense now!

  9. Definitely wear a coat. And I would go with portfolio in a tote or even a briefcase. (I carried a briefcase for my clerkship interviews.) Just make sure you figure out a relatively elegant way to hold both your bag and your coat using only your non-dominant arm, so you can enter a room and shake hands easily before figuring out where your stuff should go.

    • Anonymous :

      I think you’d have to hold everything in your left arm (not necessarily your non-dominant arm if you’re left handed) to make hand-shaking easier… Otherwise you’d have to shuffle it from the right to left to free your right hand. Depending on the straps/handle, you might be able to keep your bag on the right shoulder though.

      • Ah, that’s right. I’m right-handed, so I just non-dominant without thinking that the lefties end up having to accommodate us anyway. lol.

  10. Sheer/nude pantyhose are kind of 1980s and dated. I try to avoid at all costs…they just kind of look bad on everyone.

    Definitely go for dark black sheer or regular black tights. I think black tights look good with a black skirt suit. If it is freezing outside, stay warm with black tights! Judges may question your judgment if you show up in the freezing cold with nothing on your legs but sheer/nude stockings. Same thing goes for if you show up with no coat. And wear gloves – you don’t want your hands to feel like icicles when you have give a handshake to a group of people.

    • Agreed with the gloves thing. I have the kind of hands that feel like little icicles unless it’s at least 80 degrees out but have always lived in cold climates. Whenever I have neglected to warm up my hands before waling into the interview, I have recieved comments. If you don’t want to deal with the bulk of gloves or mittens, leave enough time to jaunt into the restroom and rinse your hands in warm/hot water before the interview. Just make sure the dry them thoroughly. Shaking someone’s moist hand is gross!

    • I go to a district courthouse in the midwest 2-3 times a week and I almost never see women in sheer black or black tights. Almost all women wear sheer pantyhouse. If you select the right color /type ie NOT considerably darker than your skin tone or shiny they look fine. I think if you wear anything else you risk standing out like a sore thumb.

      • Agreed. I’m in Chicago. Nude pantyhose. It’s the appropriate thing, and we’re all used to the weather. I love leg warmers for this reason.

        • divaliscious11 :

          Unless your skin is brown…and the nude looks like you’ve come down with a skin disorder because it doesn’t match your skin tone……

          • Sorry, by “nude” I meant “the color that is close to your skin color” not the color that most lines inappropriately label nude.

      • Concur. I’m in Madison and the majority of women appearing in Court and judicial clerks wear nude/sheer hose.

        • I know very little about the mid-west.. was only there in May (!) and once stuck in O’Hare for 48 hrs during an ice storm, BUT if you need to wear nude hose and it is subzero cold, you can wear two pairs. It is really warm.

  11. Along the purse/portfolio line of conversation… The fed. court house here (I’m in the South) does NOT allow people to bring in cell phones that have cameras unless you have a special pass. They will seriously make you go back to your car and leave your cell phone there before entering the building.

    Personally, I’d go with nude hose, wool coat, portfolio only. However, I don’t think you’d be judged adversely if you went in with a purse and a portfolio. I guess the hose is probably area-specific. I don’t really see people around here wearing hose that are not nude to business formal events.

  12. Anonymous :

    C, can you share with us what you use for your professional tote?

  13. Don’t put your keys in your pocket. Use a tote and put everything in there so you can just throw it on the security conveyor belt. Preferably one with inside pockets and a top zip to separate your folio and keep it easily accessible. If you start putting stuff in your pockets you will have to empty them out for security, flustering you and making you feel rushed. In the same way, have a photo ID already out of your wallet and stashed in a side pocket on your tote so you can easily produce it. Gliding through security at a federal courthouse will give you more confidence before your interview.

  14. former clerk :

    I clerked for a very stylish female federal judge who routinely wore sheer black or off-black stockings with heels and a skirt suit and always looked impeccable. The key with hose is to buy dense and high-quality brands — cheap hose will look cheap. I think that nude hose is also professional. I do not think that tights work with a suit, which is a great shame because they are so comfortable. But trust me — you will look more professional and fit into the courthouse better if you are wearing hose. Tights are fine if you are wearing a skirt-and-top combination.

    I also don’t get the peacoat-and-secretary comment!

  15. Definitely a long wool or cashmere coat.

    Either portfolio alone or portfolio-in-professional-tote is fine. I carried one very similar to this for interviews. I arrived with the portfolio inside the bag and the bag under my arm, which leaves both hands free and makes you look put-together and ready – you’re not juggling anything. Then you can take the portfolio out as you sit down, which gives you something to do with your hands while the interviewer shuffles papers and sits down, preventing any awkward fidgeting. I landed an AmLaw top 10 firm and a circuit court clerkship, so I assume it was fine. http://www.endless.com/Lodis-Audrey-Satchel-Brief-Work/dp/B0011X2UDA/ref=sr_1_19_vp/?cAsin=B0011X5SXY&fromPage=search&qid=1264712935863&sr=1-19&asins=B0011X55SC,B0011X85HA,B0011X55QY,B0011X55FA,B0011X7X82,B0011X9Z9W,B0011X3886,B0011X11WQ,B0011WYZK2,B0011X2WA6,B0011X5SYI,B0011X4JS4,B0011X2UCG,B0011X11SK,B0011X4LGE,B0011X11R6,B0011X5SZM,B0011X5T0G,B0011X5SXY,B0011WZ15U,B0011X2W7O,B0011X5SUW,B0011X13I8,B0011X11O4,B0011X5SZW,B0011X4JQQ,B0011X11NU,B0011X11VM,B0011X11QM,B0011X4JPM,B0011X4JT8,B0011X11VC&asinTitle=Lodis%20Audrey%20Satchel%20Brief%20Work%20Bag&contextTitle=Search%20Results&page=2&prepickColor=1&size=100&dept=241747011&node=241747011&nodes=241747011&brands=Lodis&sort=-product_site_launch_date

    Definitely no tights. Personally, I think nude hose with a black suit looks odd because the contrast is so stark. If your suit is black, I’d go with sheer black hose. However, if you’re wearing gray or navy, I’d go with nude.

  16. I’m currently doing my second federal clerkship and I did lots of clerkship interviews my 3L year (primarily in east coast and southern courthouses), and I’ve interviewed lots of candidates as well. In general, I don’t think carrying a purse or wearing tights would be a catastrophe but I agree that a professional looking bag and dark hose is probably the safest way to go. I would only carry a portfolio if you feel comfortable that way, I do not think it is necessary. Definitely wear a coat, knee length in a dark or camel color. In general with judges I think a good rule of thumb is to avoid wearing anything your grandfather or grandmother would find odd. Dark skirt suit, low heels, hair off your face, minimal jewelry, natural makeup, simple top, dressed appropriately with the weather, etc.

    Also this is not directly responsive, but if possible I’d do a practice run parking at the courthouse, getting in the building, and locating chambers. Some of the federal courthouses I’ve been in have extremely confusing parking situations. As was mentioned above, definitely leave your phone in the car. I took a cab to one interview and made the mistake of bringing my phone, then the marshals would absolutely not let me bring it in the courthouse. I had to beg one of them to personally hold it for me, which he did extremely reluctantly. It was not a great way to start an interview.

    • Excellent idea re the practice trip to the courthouse. Also, if your interview is first thing in the morning, be aware that the courthouse will probably be packed and it may take you several minutes to get an elevator.

      • And get an idea of what is going on in the courthouse, if possible. If there’s any high profile case with public interest, there will be more people, and if it’s a day that people called for jury duty show up, the lines will be LONG.

  17. Ditto on leaving your phone in the car, and for not having loose items in your pockets. You will have to empty them as you go through security. This makes you feel flustered, you might forget something, and it’s entirely possible the judge or one of the clerks will walk in right behind you and see you fumbling awkwardly for your stuff. Most judges aren’t jerks and wouldn’t hold it against you, but you’d still feel silly, and that’s not a great way to start an interview.

  18. As a Chicagoan, I personally would never hire a person who chose to show up at an interview in Jan-Feb without a winter coat and covered legs. Not wearing a coat in 10 to 20 below temperatures makes you look like a moron (and completely unprepared). Besides, if you wear a long coat, you can keep your wallet and ID in your pocket and just carry a portfolio. I would pack light (for security and comfort).

    I think tights are fine. Or black hose. Per an earlier comment, I doubt most judges (esp. those of the older male persuasion) can tell the difference between hose and tights, so I think it is not really that big of a deal.

    I would NOT drive if you are going to a big city (e.g. Chicago). Take a cab and arrive early to get through security. Then go to the ladies room to freshen up, deal with your coat, and warm up your hands etc.

  19. I clerked for a federal judge – I don’t think I or the Judge ever noticed the color of hose worn by a female candidate (although I prefer nude hose personally), and I second the “don’t carry your Louis Vitton/any fabric bag with obvious pattern” into an interview – you want your bag and portfolio to totally blend in. Black or brown, functional, but not very interesting. Make sure you know how to handle your bag/coat/portfolio jumble as gracefully and unobtrusively as possible.
    The only thing that we would have commented on is a candidate without a coat in winter – I don’t know if it would have hurt you, but we’d definitely talk about it later.
    As for the leg warmers; it seems like a good idea, but my courthouse required someone from the chambers to come down and get the candidate, which doesn’t leave much time for sneaking to the restroom to remove them. I’d leave these at home on interview day.

  20. It sounds like the nude hose/black hose issue is very regional! I, personally, think you should continue the line of the suit. So for a dark suit, dark hose, light suit, lighter hose. I remember one time seeing Diane Sawyer and she had on a beautiful oatmeal-colored suit….and black hose and shoes. All I could do was stare at her legs because they looked so out of place. I digress……

    Definitely bring a coat. If you are anywhere with snow at all wear a coat!! Arriving with hypothermia is not a great way to start an interview.

    If you are worried about your resumes getting wrinkled or crumpled in your purse, bring a portfolio. My work bags are typically large enough to hold a portfolio (or a small laptop)–I am guessing this is what C means by a professional tote? One of my purses looks similar to this one

    http://www.ebags.com/leatherbay/allison_leather_handbag/product_detail/index.cfm?modelid=123769&productid=1321207

    Also, I like the idea one poster had about doing a dry run so you know where to go and how long security takes. Good luck!!

    • It must be. I don’t even own nude hose at this point–I’ve literally never seen a professional woman in my city (in the Pacific Northwest) wearing them. Thank God, because I think that they’re hideous.

      And wearing hose under skirt suits is fairly par for the course in my office (big law firm).

    • Absolute 100% agreement that the nude v. colored hose/tights must be a regional thing. I live in FL and hardly ever see colored tights on attorneys and only see nude hose about half the time.
      But if dark hose/tights is par for the course in the midwest, I say go for it.

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.